With a stroke of his pen Thursday morning, Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed into law one of the nation’s toughest set of abortion restrictions yet, banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and imposing new facilities standards that critics say will force all but five of the state’s clinics to shut down by 2014.
With the new standards, women in Texas will now be forced to visit one of the few remaining clinics — some driving hundreds of miles to do so — for an initial evaluation and consultation, a medically unnecessary sonogram, then wait an additional 24 hours before an abortion may be legally performed. Opponents of the law say this will place a tremendous burden on lower-income women living in rural areas, who would be forced to drive to a major population center like Austin or San Antonio for medical services.
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The Texas Capitol was buzzing this morning ahead of the signing ceremony as hundreds of protesters wearing black filed into the rotunda, chanting “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Supporters of the bill, however, gave Perry an overwhelming round of applause once the measure became law. Perry told the room the new law would help Texas accomplish its mission of “protecting life,” drawing a fresh round of cheers.
Critics like Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, however, say the new law is unconstitutional and flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, which prevents states from regulating abortion before a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, usually around 24-26 weeks of pregnancy.
“The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women’s access to health care in Texas gains steam,” Richards said in a press release issued Thursday. “People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women’s health.”
Featured photo: Flickr user Lauren Gerson, creative commons licensed.